SAN ANTONIO—Mitchell Meissner figures he’s played more than 1,000 rounds at Oak Hills Country Club. He and his family have been members since he was 6 years old. He’s 19 now and a junior at Rice University. He’s also the leader after the first round of the 107th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity.
Meissner didn’t shoot his best score ever Thursday, but his 4-under-par 67 will do. He holds a one-shot lead over three players headed into Friday’s second round. For complete scoring, click here.
“I started off pretty confident and made a lot of putts early on,” said Meissner, who in April won his first collegiate event, the Jim West Intercollegiate at Wolfdancer Golf Club in Bastrop. The wire-to-wire victory was the first individual win for a Rice golfer since 2011. “I could’ve gone a lot lower today, but I hit some goofy shots coming down the last seven holes.”
Meissner leads by one stroke over Ross Wilhelm from San Antonio, James Thompson from Dallas and Chad Sewell from Conroe. All three shot 3-under 68s. Four more players are tied for fifth place at 2-under 69.
Starting his round on the par-5 10th, Meissner quickly converted a birdie. After a bogey on 12, he went birdie-eagle on the 14th and 15th holes. “I hit driver, 7-iron into 15 green,” he said of the 527-yard par 5. “I had 15 feet downhill for eagle. I breathed on it and it got there.”
Once Meissner made the turn to the front nine, he added birdies on the first two holes. Then he blew his drive right into the trees on the 450-yard, par-4 third hole. From under the shade of dense tree limbs, he punched a low, running iron shot through a tiny window of sunlight. His ball shot through the foliage unscathed and rolled up onto the green. He escaped with a two-putt par.
“I’ve been in a lot of strange places on this course. I know how to get out of them, maybe more so than some of the other players,” said Meissner, whose career best score at Oak Hills is a 7-under 64.
Wilhelm, one of Meissner’s pursuers by a shot, is a 30-year-old CPA who audits defense contracts for the U.S. government. He’s a 2008 graduate of NCAA Division II Winona State University in Minnesota. Wilhelm earned Golf San Antonio’s 2015 Player of the Year after six top-10 finishes in eight events, including a second place finish at the South Texas Mid-Amateur at Lakecliff Country Club. On Thursday, Wilhelm used precision and relative familiarity to fashion his 68. He hit 15 of 18 greens and 11 of 14 fairways.  
“I grew up in Wisconsin playing courses like this one: narrow, wooded with small, fast greens,” said Wilhelm, a three-year San Antonio resident who has played about eight rounds at Oak Hills as a guest. “I’m comfortable here. I was swinging free out there today. I think that’s my key. I want to stay loose and keep swinging free.”
The 107th Texas Amateur is the seventh Texas Golf Association major conducted at historic Oak Hills. It’s the fourth time the A.W. Tillinghast-designed course has hosted the state’s most prestigious amateur champions. The last Texas Amateur played here was in 1972. That year a rising young talent from Austin by the name of Ben Crenshaw took home the title. Crenshaw, of course, went on to win the Masters – twice. Prior to that, the 1959 Texas Amateur was held at Oak Hills. That affair was won by Abilene’s Charles Coody, who grabbed a green jacket of his own at the 1971 Masters.
For this year’s Texas Amateur, the challenging par-71 course is playing to an average of 6,765 yards. Even though the course is more than 90 years old, it still has plenty of bite. Out of 144 of the best amateurs in Texas – and therefore in the country – only 12 finished the first round under par. The scoring average for the first day of the 72-hole championship was 76.12.
In addition to the leader Meissner, eight Oak Hills CC members are in the field this week. The group was led Thursday by a 1-under 70 from Brett Nichols. He’s tied for ninth place. TGA Director and Oak Hills member Bobby Baugh made four birdies on his way to a 2-over 73 and a share of 28th place. Chase Clayton, another member, carded two birdies and signed for 3-over 74. He’s a part of a 15-player group tied for 34th place.
During Wednesday night’s Players Dinner, the TGA honored several award winners from the 2015 season. Joshua Irving from Dallas made history by becoming the first to win both the Statewide and North Region Player of the Year awards. Irving last season racked a number of impressive results, highlighted by wins at the North Texas Amateur and North Texas Four-Ball Championship with partner Michael Ray. Irving also finished third at the North Texas Mid-Amateur and tied for sixth place at the West Texas Amateur. He finished eighth at the Texas Mid-Amateur and tied for 19th at the 106th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity.
The 2015 South Texas Player of the Year went to Austin’s Jay Reynolds, winner of last year’s South Texas Mid-Amateur. Reynolds and his dad, Peach Reynolds, finished second at the Father-Son Championship. Reynolds tied for fifth at the South Texas Amateur.
TGA Executive Director Rob Addington and Managing Director of Championships Ryan Finn also awarded two Volunteer of the Year awards. A.J. Cortez of Montgomery won the accolade for South Texas; Marion Dantzler of McKinney received the North Texas Volunteer of the Year honor. Cortez and Dantlzer went above and beyond the call of duty and demonstrated passion and dedication to the TGA with the amount of time worked and expertise allocated throughout the championship season. The TGA can’t stress enough how grateful it is to have so many hard-working volunteers and Rules Officials, who all enhance the stature and player experience at more than 170 annual tournaments and qualifiers.
The second round of the 107th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity begins Friday at 8 a.m. Following play, the players with the lowest 54 scores (and ties) will survive the 36-hole cut and advance to the weekend’s final two rounds. For more information, including scoring, click here.